Joint news release from Tennessee congressional delegation:
WASHINGTON – Members of the Tennessee United States congressional delegation today announced that their inquiry into whether the administration awarded Medicare contracts to businesses not licensed in Tennessee has resulted in the finding that 30 of 98 suppliers were not licensed and will have their contracts voided.
On May 21, Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), along with Representatives Marsha Blackburn (R-Brentwood), Phil Roe (R-Johnson City), John J. Duncan, Jr. (R-Knoxville), Chuck Fleischmann (R- Ooltewah), Scott DesJarlais, (R-Jasper), Jim Cooper (D-Nashville), Diane Black (R-Gallatin), and Steve Cohen (D-Memphis) sent a letter to the administration requesting details on its policy of awarding Medicare contracts for durable medical equipment to businesses not licensed in Tennessee, a violation of the administration’s bid policy and a violation of Tennessee state law. Durable medical equipment includes products that are intended for at-home care of sick or injured individuals. The category includes wheelchairs, crutches, blood pressure monitors, and hospital beds.
In a letter responding to the May 21 inquiry from the members, the administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Marilyn Tavenner, said: “We have determined that certain out-of-state suppliers that were licensed in their home state, but that did not meet aspects of existing Tennessee licensing requirements at the time of bid submission, were awarded contracts. As a result, CMS will take steps to void contracts for these suppliers in the Tennessee competitive bidding areas, consistent with the policies and guidelines established for the competitive bidding program. This applies to approximately 30 out of the 98 contract suppliers in the Tennessee Competitive Bidding Areas.” Note: The full text of the CMS response is below:
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Twenty-one leaders of Tennessee’s colleges and universities have sent a letter to the state’s two U.S. senators urging their support for immigration reform that will allow more graduates to remain in the country after they finish their education.
The letter dated Wednesday asks Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to back a bi-partisan plan that would ensure foreign-born students educated in U.S. universities will have a clear path to work in this country after graduation.
The educators say current immigration policy threatens “America’s pre-eminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity” because of its inability to retain skilled foreign-born graduates.
Some members of Congress want a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally, an idea that’s been met with deep skepticism by some lawmakers.
— Note: A list of those signing is below.
Tennessee tea party groups, several state lawmakers and numerous other conservative activists urged U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker in an open letter to oppose a Senate plan to create a 13-year road to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, reports The Tennessean. Critics say the bill amounts to “amnesty legislation” that “legalizes millions of illegal immigrants.”
“It contains dangerous loopholes that will undermine our national security,” the tea party activists write. “It rewards illegal behavior, punishes those who have followed our rules and undermines our law enforcement.”
The letter, which was signed by 46 activists and lawmakers, asks Tennessee’s Republican senators to speak against the bill, oppose any vote to end debate and “stand up for the rule of law.” The message was the same in a 30-second spot released by NumbersUSA that is airing nine times a day on two Tennessee radio stations, including WLAC in Nashville.
Laura Herzog, a Corker spokeswoman, said he is reviewing the bill.
“Senator Corker is optimistic that we have an opportunity to do something that is productive for our country,” she said, “but the details matter, and we expect there will be a lengthy debate with many amendments when the bill comes to the floor of the Senate.”
Alexander, in a statement, didn’t explicitly support the Senate bill, but he said the current situation is “completely unacceptable.”
“Our borders are not secure,” he said. “Millions illegally here have de facto amnesty. At the same time we are excluding scientists and workers who could help grow our economy. It is the constitutional responsibility of the president and Congress to write the rules for a legal immigration system and then to enforce it. I will be voting to secure our borders, end de facto amnesty, and to establish an immigration system that respects the rule of law.”
The Tennessee State Chamber of Commerce and Industry also took issue with the letter, saying the time is right for comprehensive immigration reform — though it stopped short of an outright endorsement of the Senate plan.
“We would have a hard time understanding why anyone would oppose a bill that both strengthens our borders and strengthens our economy as well,” said Bradley Jackson, vice president for governmental affairs at the chamber. “There has to be a federal solution to this problem.”
A Senate committee voted last week to approve S. 744, the “Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act,” a measure developed and backed by a bipartisan group of eight lawmakers led by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
News release from Humane Society of the United States:
(April 19, 2013) – The Humane Society of the United States urged Gov. Bill Haslam to veto Tennessee’s notorious anti-whistleblower, or “ag-gag,” bill, SB1248, which would make it a crime for reputable non-profit organizations and journalists to document and expose unethical and illegal activity in horse stables and at industrial agriculture facilities. The bill narrowly passed the House with a bare minimum of votes and will soon be transmitted to Gov. Haslam for action.
In a letter to Gov. Haslam, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, said the bill “appears to be an attempt to enact a policy of covering up abuses, and keeping the public from learning of them. If it is signed into law, it may indeed backfire, and result in more public mistrust and skepticism about the workings of the Tennessee walking horse industry at a time when it is already suffering a drastic decline in popularity due to the stigma of soring.”
In 2011, an HSUS investigation into Tennessee walking horse trainer Jackie McConnell’s stable in Collierville, Tenn., revealed shocking cruelty to horses. The whistleblower recorded horses being whipped, kicked, shocked in the face and intentionally burned with caustic chemicals. As a direct result of that investigation, a federal grand jury handed down a 52-count criminal indictment and a state grand jury indicted McConnell and two others for 38 counts of criminal animal cruelty.
News release from Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker:
Washington, March 28 – Tennessee Republican Senators Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker today urged the Obama administration to quickly consider Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s request for flexibility in using the federal dollars provided to expand health care coverage to 175,000 Tennesseans under the new health care law.
In a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Alexander and Corker said: “We write to ask that you give timely and speedy consideration to a request announced today by Governor Bill Haslam to provide health care coverage to 175,000 Tennesseans by leveraging available federal dollars in the new exchange.”
They continued: “Nashville is the health care services capital of the country and if your Department would support Tennessee in doing what the state does best, Tennessee will continue to find innovative ways to provide better care for its citizens. We urge you to work with Governor Haslam to implement his vision for achieving quality health care for Tennesseans by Tennesseans, particularly for those who currently do not have health insurance.”
The senators also noted that they last week introduced a bipartisan budget amendment to end the department’s practice of stalling state Medicaid waiver applications, in some instances for years, which has slowed innovations in care for Medicaid patients and impeded states’ ability to manage their annual budget process.
The senators added: “In this time of state budget constraints it is more important than ever that states have the necessary flexibility to determine how best to care for its citizens.”
The full text of the letter is below:
By Eric Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Tennessee won’t participate in a partnership with the federal government in establishing a health insurance exchange, Gov. Bill Haslam announced Friday.
The Republican governor said in a letter to U.S. Health and Human Resources Secretary Kathleen Sebelius that the partnership model doesn’t address his concerns over what he called “aggressive federal timelines, a lack of true flexibility for states, and misguided federal policies.”
Exchanges are online markets required under President Barack Obama’s health care law where consumers will be able to buy individual private policies and apply for government subsidies to help pay their premiums.
Haslam noted that he had the same complaints when he rejected a state-based exchange in December. His deadline decision means Tennesseans will participate in an exchange completely run by the federal government.
About 982,000 people lack health insurance in Tennessee. The state projects that about 300,000 people will participate in the exchange, through some estimates put that number as high as 600,000.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais says that implementation of the 2010 federal health care reform still can be blocked and has urged Gov. Bill Haslam to not create a state health insurance market, according to The Tennessean. Originally, Haslam faced a deadline today to notify the federal Department of Health and Human Services about whether Tennessee will create its own health insurance exchange or let the federal government create one for the state. But HHS announced Thursday evening that the deadline had been extended to Dec. 14.
Under Democratic President Barack Obama’s federal health care law, the exchanges are intended to be a kind of clearinghouse through which insurance companies will compete for customers beginning in 2014.
Most observers interpret the law as allowing the federal government to create exchanges in states that decide not to create their own.
But DesJarlais, in an argument first raised earlier this year, contends there can be no health care exchanges, and thus no final implementation of the controversial health care law, if states refuse to create their own.
In a letter to Haslam dated Thursday, DesJarlais said his position has been bolstered by a recent Congressional Research Service report.
IRS officials, however, contend the clear intent of the law is to allow federally created exchanges in states where governors don’t act. Many Southern governors have opposed setting up exchanges.
“In short, states that refuse to create and implement their own state health-insurance exchanges could potentially have the ability to block the law altogether,” DesJarlais wrote.
Because of President Barack Obama’s re-election and a changed makeup of Congress, he added, this may be one of the last options for stopping the law, at least until it can get further judicial review.
Back during the legislative session, there was a push to put new restrictions in place on people drawing unemployment benefits. (See prior post HERE, for example.) Now, with reelection campaigns underway, the Dyersburg State Gazette says at least one lawmaker is concerned about the handling of benefits – or lack thereof – for workers who deserve them. Earlier this week state Rep. Bill Sanderson sent a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam about the challenges residents in his district are facing in trying to communicate with Labor and Workforce Development.
…”I have heard of numerous cases where proud members of this community who have lost their jobs due to no fault of their own have requested relief from the State only to be denied after an exhaustive 10-14 week review process,” said Sanderson in his letter dated Oct. 19. “This process should take less time. This is extremely frustrating and only complicates matters for all parties involved.”
Sanderson goes on to state that he believes northwest Tennessee’s best days are ahead of it. A thought that may be supported by the latest unemployment figures and the completion of the Port of Cates Landing, which is bringing with it a renewed hope that the economy in the area will be jump-started.
In terms of unemployment numbers, 11.3 percent of residents in Dyer County reported in September that they are currently unemployed. As critics have pointed out, this does not include the number of individuals that have stopped looking for work or whose benefits have lapsed as is the case for World Color employees. However, the Labor Department’s unemployment figures and job creation data is currently the only method of determining unemployment rates in a particular area.
An ‘Open Letter to My Supporters’ from 4th District Congressman Scott DesJarlais, passed along by a recepient:
You have probably seen the recent media coverage regarding details of my divorce from over a decade ago. I had genuinely hoped this election would be about my record in Congress – not a 12 year old divorce.
Unfortunately, my opponent is making the same types of accusations Lincoln Davis used in 2010 when he ran what was described as the nastiest campaign in the nation in an attempt to dominate the headlines.
I know that many of you were disappointed to hear the news regarding allegations of a relationship I had while separated during my divorce proceedings. I am deeply sorry for that. But what was reported in the media was not only inaccurate, it doesn’t even begin to tell the whole story.
First, there was never any pregnancy and there was no abortion. Second, my ex-wife and I had been separated for quite some time before this incident. There was an agreement in our separation that both she and I could see other people while finalizing the divorce. To say that I had a mistress or that I had an affair is inaccurate. Third, the media wrongly reported that I recorded the conversation myself. I was recorded unknowingly and without my consent.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais has written U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack with concerns about Horse Protection Act enforcement which he said “cause great uncertainty for the industry and this coming ‘Celebration.'”
From the Shelbyville Times-Gazette: DesJarlais, a member of the House Agriculture Committee and its subcommittee on livestock, dairy and poultry, has asked to meet with Vilsack and his staff to discuss the issues.
DesJarlais claims that USDA has intimidated those in the industry from talking to their congressmen about the issue and refers to an allegation that if the industry went over the head of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the Celebration would be shut down. The letter also refers to changes in enforcement results and procedures.
DesJarlais (R-South Pittsburg), a physician, represents the 4th Congressional District. Bedford and Rutherford counties are in the process of being moved from the 6th District to the 4th District effective with this election cycle, as a result of redistricting which followed the 2010 Census. DesJarlais is finishing his first two-year term in the House and is running for re-election against Democratic State Sen. Eric Stewart of Winchester.
The Tennessee Walking Show Horse organization recently called DesJarlais “a friend to and advocate of the walking horse on Capitol Hill.”
— Note: DesJarlais is taking some criticism for his walking horse stance, an example being Roy Exum.